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New avast freebie security scanner aims to keel-haul MS

Free 5.0 tweaked to work faster on multiple cores

Reducing security risks from open source software

Updated A new version of avast aims to offer users of free anti-malware technology faster running protection against the latest hacking attacks, while offering alternatives to AVG and Microsoft Security Essentials.

avast Free 5.0 comes with the same engine under its bonnet as its premium sibling, avast Pro Antivirus 5.0. Both versions have been optimised to run faster on the multiple PC processor cores common with the latest desktop and netbook PCs. Tests run on notebooks running Intel Core i5 mobile showed a 40 per cent speed boost for avast 5.0, compared to the previous version (avast 4 Home Edition) as a result of this optimisation work.

ALWIL also introduced a new premium Internet Security suite on Wednesday, which offers firewall and anti-spam services in addition to anti-malware protection.

avast Pro Antivirus 5.0 debuts new sandboxing technology not found in the freebie version of the antivirus scanner software, as well as features aimed as making the software a better fit for small businesses and more tech-savvy users. The free version, by contrast, is aimed at home users, schools and charities.

ALWIL Software, the Czech Republic firm behind avast, is bullish in suggesting Microsoft's introduction of a freebie anti-virus scanner for consumers last September will not affect its business model.

"We sure don't see any impact to our user base since the MSE introduction," Milos Korenko, avast marketing director at ALWIL told El Reg. "To the contrary, the rate new-user-increase has accelerated even before the launch of [avast] v5.0."

ALWIL remains committed to converting users of the freebie version of its product into paying customers.

"We believe that by showing these communities the full potential of our software, these groups will continue to advocate our brand into the wider commercial market," said Vince Steckler, chief exec of ALWIL Software.

Steckler added that two out of every three avast users discovered the software through a friend’s recommendation.

The freebie version of the avast scanner has registered 100 million times since its introduction in 2004, according to ALWIL. Home users normally need to register and submit their email address after using the product for 30 days. ALWIL, in common with AVG, does not disclose conversion rates for free to paid-for users.

Google is bundling avast 5.0 free with select European versions of its Google Pack consumer utility software bundle, a factor ALWIL hopes will stimulate yet more downloads. ®

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